I have been counting down my top poetry picks for years, so as tradition dictates, here is my list of my best poetry collections of 2015.
The Robot Scientist’s Daughter by Jeannine Hall Gailey (Mayapple Press)
Gailey's fourth full-length collection of poetry is part coming-of-age exploration of the poet's life growing up in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, part critical look at nuclear history in America. It’s her best book yet!
The Arranged Marriage by Jehanne Dubrow (University of New Mexico Press)
In her newest collection, Dubrow intertwines narrative prose poems of her mother’s violent past with ekphrastic poems all the while showing the reader that the past never truly leaves us no matter how much we try to paint our lives in linear lines.
Mendeleev’s Mandala by Jessica Goodfellow (Mayapple Press)
In Mendeleev’s Mandala, Goodfellow sifts through the intersections of science, mythology and everyday life to find wonderment in both the ordinary and the unknown.
Dark Matter by Christine Klocek-Lim (Aldrich Books)
In her newest collection of poetry, Klocek-Lim intertwines the world of astronomy with human emotions and experiences recording happiness and sorrow, discovery and loss.
Grayling by Jenifer Browne Lawrence (Perugia Press)
Winner of Perugia Press’s annual contest, Lawrence’s collection, Grayling, explores the rural coastlines of the West Coast intertwining stories with surreal images and scenes.
More Money Than God by Richard Michelson (Pitt Poetry Series)
With a lighthearted tone that may seem out of place when exploring tragedy (but isn’t, at least with the way Michelson masters both comic and poetic voice) , this book examines the Jewish experience in America along with exploring personal loss and joys.
Iconoscope: New and Selected Poems by Peter Oresick (Pitt Poetry Series)
Iconoscope: New and Selected Poems gathers together Oresick’s work from two previous collections as well as newer poems that have not yet been seen in book form. While I enjoyed the new work, my favorite part was revisiting the selections from Definitions (1990) that explore a familiar landscape of the blue collar world.
The Well Speaks of Its Own Poison by Maggie Smith (Tupelo Press)
To say that poet Maggie Smith is updating the fairy tale in her newest collection of poetry may be misleading as her work turns the common clichés of children’s stories into surreal and beautiful tales.
Our Portion: New & Selected Poems by Philip Terman (Autumn House Press)
It would be a mistake to simply summarize Terman's work as poems that explore the contemporary Jewish experience in America. Yes, it is true, that in this newest book, the importance of Terman's Jewish identity is highlighted. Yet, it is just as easy to find the themes of exploration of family relationships to the landscape around us. This collection gathers together work from four previously published books along with 23 new poems.
Beauty Strip by William Kelley Woolfitt (Texas Review Press)
Woolfitt explores the exploited landscape of Appalachia in his first full length collection of poetry. If there is any beauty to be found in the worn debris of a tired natural world, he finds it, capturing stories and history in rich, lyrical language.
I'm more of a reader than a writer -- I've said this over and over again. So, here is my list of best reads of 2015. All of these books (to my knowledge) have been published in either 2015 (or late 2014).
Belief Is Its Own Kind of Truth, Maybe by Lori Jakiela (Memoir)
In her third memoir, Lori Jakiela intertwines the story of her journey of looking for her birth parents with an exploration of her relationship with her adopted mother and her own children.
Dead Wake by Erik Larson (History)
Erik Larson’s latest book thoughtfully investigates the last trip of the Lusitania before it was torpedoed and sunk by a German U-boat. Featuring an interesting cast of characters, Dead Wake is a must read for history buffs everywhere!
H is For Hawk by Helen Macdonald (Memoir/Nature)
When Helen Macdonald’s father dies suddenly, Helen, as she mourns, turns her attention to raising a goshawk, long since considered one of nature’s most fierce predators. What she learns is not only how we survive grief, but also how we navigate life.
The Determined Heart: The Tale of Mary Shelley and Her Frankenstein by Antoinette May (Novel)
While I don’t usually like fictional retellings of authors, Antoinette May’s examination of the life of Mary Shelley is both a fascinating (and fun!) read.
The Soul of an Octopus by Sy Montgomery (Nature/Science)
In her newest book, naturalist Sy Montgomery explores the emotional and physical universe of the octopus, all the while questioning the very way mankind defines intelligence and spirituality.
American Ghost: A Family’s Haunted Past in the Desert Southwest by Hannah Nordhaus (Memoir/History)
Hannah Nordhaus’s newest book is part ghost story, part exploration of family history – a haunting read (no pun intended) about the way we view the past.
Bone Gap by Laura Ruby (Young Adult Lit)
Laura Ruby’s surreal Midwestern fairytale has a happy ending that is not forced, and is, in many ways, believable in spite of the author’s use of magical realism. One of the best young adult books I have read this year!
Finding Abbey by Sean Prentiss (Memoir/Travel)
Sean Prentiss looks for the hidden grave of nature writer Edward Abbey in a book that not only explores the life of the elusive literary figure, but also catalogs a young writer’s own self-discovery.
The Blondes by Emily Schultz (Novel)
I thought that I had every apocalyptic/dystopian book worth reading, so I admit that I was a bit skeptical when I approached The Blondes, a work where all blonde women are becoming with a rabies-like illness. Still, I loved this book – perhaps because the storyline reads more like a satire about women’s issues than a work of apocalyptic literature.
The World Is On Fire: Scrap, Treasure, and Songs of the Apocalypse by Joni Tevis (Essays)
In the last few years, I have fallen in love with the personal essay, and Tevis’s collection, that explores our society’s infatuation with the end of the world, has become one of my favorite reads. Journeying through landscapes that include the atomic test sites in the American Southwest to the mazes of staircases found in the Sarah Winchester home, Tevis records what it means to have suffered loss.
Final grades have been turned in! The new Star Wars movie has been seen (no spoilers here, but I was pleasantly surprised. I felt like I was a kid again!). Two new poetry books have been read!
So far, this is how I have been spending my Holiday Break, which officially started this past Friday. We also had our first major snowstorm of the year. Today, however, it's sunny outside, and I think what snow is on the ground will be gone by tomorrow. In fact, local weather stations are calling for a warm Christmas. A very warm Christmas, they are saying, One for the record books.
I have to admit that I will miss snow for Christmas. But I won't miss navigating icy roads in order to visit family and friends.
In other news, December in general has been full of surprises. I got acceptances from both Briar Cliff Review and Chautauqua -- both journals I admire a great deal. And in between grading final papers and exams, I read the newest issues of Tahoma Literary Review, which includes great work by some of my favorite poets including Joe Wilkins, Gerry LaFemina and Martha Silano. My poem, "Tips for Young Girls Hoping to Avoid the Rapture" is also included.
Now, back to my regularly scheduled pre-holiday festivities. I will return after December 25 with my "Best of Reading Lists" for the year.
I am a poet and professor from rural Pennsylvania. This page is dedicated to my publishing news and events; for book reviews published online go to the Reviews tab above. For my own personal reviews, explore the Book Picks tab.